I just finished reading The Psychopath Test, A Journey Through the Madness Industry by Jon Ronson (Riverhead Books 2011). Yes, I took the test and failed. I’m not a psychopath. I know this must disappoint some fans of Underworld.
Bob Hare created a twenty-item checklist that is used by psychologists to determine if someone may be a psychopath. Psychopaths make up 20% of the prison population and 1% of the general population. But that 1% can have a huge impact on our lives when those psychopaths run corporations, the stock market, and hold political office. One of the theories in this book is that psychopaths are attracted big stakes business and politics where they tend to thrive (at least for a while). Writer, Jon Ronson used this checklist when interviewing Emmanuel “Toto” Constant once the head of far right terrorist Haitian military group FRAPH and Al Dunlap former CEO of Sunbeam. Dunlap is an exec who took pleasure in firing people and shutting down factories. They both scored high on the Bob Hare checklist.
The book also explores people who may be borderline mad and this is another meditation in this book. Ronson says that it’s human nature to define people by the most extreme aspects of their personalities. And journalism’s very nature is to expose the more extreme aspects of people’s personalities and then define them by those extremes.
A small personal example: I once worked in an office where a coworker, a perfectly normal, nice guy squeezed our hands a bit too hard when shaking hands. From then on he was known around the office as The Crusher. It was the only extreme part of his personality. But it was too late. It defined him.